5 ways to head off info overload and engage your audience

The temptation to cram your presentation with stats, data and vital insights can be strong, but fight it. Less can be more—if it’s conveyed clearly and succinctly. A vivid anecdote helps, too.

Keeping your audience engaged

If your head hurts trying to fit everything into your presentation, imagine the pain your listeners will feel.

It can be hard to know which information to include and which to leave out. Many topics are complex in nature.

Maybe you’re presenting controversial points of view, maybe your approach to something is a tad unorthodox, or maybe you know there will be a ton of questions at the end and you want to build the answers into your content.

These tips will help you avoid information overload in your presentations:

1. Stop thinking of more as more

As a public speaker, your primary goal is to deliver maximum value to your audience, but that does not necessitate delivering the most information possible.

That would be like a chef wanting to give you the best meal you’ve ever had, so he keeps shoving food into your mouth until you can barely breathe. He only meant to give you maximum value, but now someone might have to give you the Heimlich maneuver.

Your first task is to stop thinking of more as more, because often, especially in presentations, less really is more.

2. Let go of your scarcity mindset

That chef crammed four pounds of food down your throat because he thought you could stay in his restaurant for only 10 minutes, so you got his appetizer, main course and dessert all at once, and it was an awful experience.

When you have a scarcity mindset, you tell yourself that this presentation is the only time you will ever have access to your audience, so you had better cram as much information into their heads as possible.

A better way to think about your presentation is as an introduction, the beginning of a new relationship. At the end, put up a slide with your contact information—your LinkedIn account, blog, social media pages, etc. This way people can stay in touch with you and you deliver additional information over a longer, more controlled period of time.

3. Don’t overload your PowerPoint 

One way presenters cram in a lot of information is to load up their PowerPoint slides with text. This way, they think, the audience is getting twice as much from them.

The problem is that you force your audience to read your slides rather than listening to you.

Your slides should not be the star of the show. Use PowerPoint as a supplemental tool, one that illustrates or supports your message. Use images, charts and graphs and a few bullet points, but that’s it. Keep it short and sweet.

4. Focus on benefits

Good presentations have something in common with good sales copy. They focus on benefits, not features.

Don’t spend unnecessary time-sharing details or technical information. Instead, share what those details mean to the business. How do all those details affect your audience? How does the audience benefit from them? What can people learn from them?

Don’t let your presentation get bogged down with details, too much raw data or a glut of statistics. Instead, focus on the bigger picture and how it pertains to your listeners.

5. Tell a story

Don’t think of yourself as a presenter, but as a storyteller. Presenters tend to want to convey information; storytellers want to engage and inspire. That’s a totally different mindset.

Beyond data points, how can you share your information in a narrative that will have them sitting up straight in their seats? Do you have a personal story that is relevant to your topic? Do you have a case study of how your information was used by another company with stellar results? Think of how you can creatively get your points across to your audience.

 Ashish Arora is the co-founder of SketchBubble.com. You can find him on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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